No-one wants to have to claim on their home insurance - it means that something must have gone badly wrong.
But what do you need to know to make the process as simple as possible? And when it comes to claims handling, which home insurance companies stand out from the pack?
Our video guide explains how to make a home insurance claim.
What should I do if I need to make a home insurance claim?
1. Prepare yourself in advance
Unless you can see into the future, it is impossible to predict when you need to claim; however, there are steps you can take to prepare yourself.
If any of your items are stolen or damaged, you'll often be asked for proof, such as a receipt - some Which? members have had claims turned down by their insurer due to lack of evidence. Whenever you make a big purchase, it's wise to keep the receipt in a safe place or take a photograph of the item.
It is also important to keep your property in a good state of repair. Home insurers offer buildings insurance on the condition that your home is maintained regularly.
Claims are often turned down if this is found not to be the case, especially with storm damage to roofs. Make sure your roof is inspected every few years and keep proof that this has been done.
2. Call your insurer promptly
Many insurers will give you up to 180 days to make a claim on your home insurance, but it's always best to get in touch as soon as possible.
Insurers like to handle large claims as soon as possible, especially if there is a flood or fire. Delaying a claim could worsen the damage, and you'll be keen to get yourself back on your feet as soon as possible anyway.
3. Don't throw away damaged items
While it might be tempting to do a complete clean-up following a fire or a flood, do not throw away damaged items. Your home insurance company will probably want to assess what you have lost, so keep your contents unless you are told you can bin them.
You should also avoid redecorating, at least immediately, in the event of a flood. A property can take a long time to fully dry out, and lifting a wet carpet could see it shrink.
Find out more: Home insurance - flooding and subsidence
4. Take photographs
When you submit your claim, your home insurance provider will ask you for a full rundown of what has happened, as well as evidence. Taking photos of the damage done to your property and its contents, or making a short video, can be useful in the event of a dispute.
5. Get help from a loss assessor
Taking on a home insure provider in the event of a large claim can be daunting. Usually an insurer will send a loss adjuster round to look at your property, and they will decide how your claim will progress.
However, you may wish to have someone working with you personally to also have a look at the claim.
If you bought your home insurance policy via a broker, you can always turn to them for help. Or you can appoint a loss assessor - a claims specialist who looks after the interest of the consumer, to help you at an additional cost.
Is it worth making a home insurance claim?
Is claiming always going to save you money? Faced with several thousand pounds worth of damage or theft, the case for making a claim on your home insurance is pretty clear cut.
When it comes to costs of lower value, however - where it wouldn't break the bank to fund repairs or replacements yourself - you might decide making a claim isn't worth it. Here are the factors to bear in mind when weighing up whether or not to make a claim
Do I have to contact my insurer at all?
Often, you won't be obligated to report every minor incident of loss or damage unless you're also considering a claim. This can vary between home insurers, though, so be sure to check the terms and conditions of yours.
An exception to this rule will be any incident that's affected the habitability or security of your property, damage that could indirectly lead to a future claim, or where a third party was involved.
When it comes to renewing or taking out home insurance, some insurers will also ask about any losses that could have led to a claim - even if you didn't pursue one.
Home insurance claims: impact on premiums
A major cause for hesitation can be the potential impact on your home insurance premiums: recent claims or incidents affect the insurer's view of your level of risk, and so they may adjust your price accordingly.
Unfortunately, you can't know in advance what your next home insurance renewal premium will be.
Generally speaking, though, a minor, isolated incident - like a broken or lost valuable - is less likely to lead to painful increases than something more serious or complex - like a burglary or damage to the building itself.
Whether you choose to claim or not, be alert at renewal time. If your home insurance premium has soared, consider switching to a new provider or haggle with your current one for a better deal.
Home insurance claims: paying an excess
Excesses help keep your home insurance premium low, marking a threshold of what you're happy - or required - to pay yourself in the event of a claim.
Therefore the nearer the claim amount is to your excess, the more negligible the benefit is in claiming.
How do I complain about my claim?
If your claim doesn't pan out as you expect, or you feel that your home insurance provider has treated you unfairly, don't be afraid to make a complaint.
Speak to your insurer first but, if it isn't proving helpful (and you have exhausted the complaints process outlined in your policy document), take the matter up with the Financial Ombudsman Service by calling 0300 123 9123.
You usually have six months from the time you reach deadlock with your insurer in which to make a complaint. The FOS's decision is binding on companies but not on the consumer, so you could, if you wish, refer the matter to court.
Home insurance claims rated by Which?
The acid test of any home insurance provider is how it handles your claim. In January 2019, Which? surveyed 1,456 members of the general public about their experiences using a major home insurance provider. Their ratings are shown in the table below.
We also rate insurers on value for money, complaints handling and transparency of fees as part of our customer satisfaction ratings. In addition, full information on the quality of each policy can be found on our home insurance brand pages.
The table below highlights the claims satisfaction scores for the leading home insurance brands.
Table notes: Insurers must be rated by at least 30 respondents to be included in our table. Sample sizes (in brackets) show the number of respondents answering our claims customer score questions. For some of the star ratings, too few answered the specific question for a valid rating to be generated. '-' is shown where this is the case.